Monday, January 31, 2011

6 Months!

yes, I've made it 6 months on the mission. Much better than my previous record of 3 days. haha. That makes me giggle in shame.
I didn't get a chance to burn a tie in celebration... but i did FINALLY get a toaster from Elder and Sister Gray because they went home to New Zealand. I love toast. next week i'll try to include my list of things learned in the 6 months i have served.
Ummm... i had a whole list of things i wanted to cover this week in my e-mail... but i seemed to have forgotten it at the apartment (thats a lie) so i'll just have to try and remember what went on this week.... but my memory becomes worse and worse as i become better and better at using my planner.
This past week sickness finally caught up to me. My companion is ALWAYS sick, and i guess after 4 weeks my immune system took a break from working hard. Just a cold though. I still don't have nearly a tenth of the problems he has. And for that I am VERY thankful. I'm beginning the feel better though and i'm excited for this next week. first of all, its the begginning of the month, so we have money again! which means we will have food! It still wont be the fine dining i was treated to with elder swainston... but atleast i wont have to ration my sandwhiches this week. Also this next saturday will be a baptism! It's a 13 yr old son of a recent convert. He was supposed to get baptised this last week but read about the people in the dream of Lihi which continued on the iron rod until they were able to partake of the fruit, but afterwards looked around and were ashamed and wondered off and died. So he was a little afraid he wasn't ready, But we were able to reassure him that through baptism he can recieve the gift of the Holy Ghost which will be a really big help to him in doing the right things and following commandments. So he is getting baptised this next week. which i am excited about.
we also met a very interesting man this week. he reminds me of 'crazy eyes' from mr. deeds. and well. He invited us to come to his apartment and teach him. we went there and there were bugs everywhere, he had a ton of books about aliens, and CAT POSTERS on the wall. I now have another place i can put my cat posters to good use. I was amazed at how he could relate everything we were trying to teach him about Christ to aliens. when we left one of his cats was desperately trying to escape ( I don't blame him) It was a really interesting meeting... and he is a really interesting person. I have mixed feelings about teaching him to be honest... but he came to church, was involved in conversations and even shared some really good insights. So... we shall see. I'm not one to judge someone by how many cat posters they have on their wall.
we're seeing a lot of success here, and i really like the area and the branch here. My companion and I are very different, and we are both pretty stubborn... so it's been a struggle at times. But I have also learned a lot from him about how i can become a better missionary, leader, and just easier to live with.
well sorry to be short this week, we had a new letter format for our e-mails to president so it took a bit more time and thinking to understand what i needed to write. I'm happy safe and behaving though! hope you all are too! love you all!!
Elder Ellis

Monday, January 24, 2011

I'm still alive!

About last week’s pictures:

The really big guy is elder Vargan. He was in the MTC with me and saved me in the Moscow airport when i lost my bags and my travel group. He is from Russia and serving in russia as well. but different mission.

I don't remember which building i sent a picture of. maybe that was my old apartment?

the little guy is elder crookston... my trainer.

the guy in the airport is elder rigby, my mtc companion. he is serving in rostov, which the the mission to the south down by georgia.

Sorry about last week, I tried to send some photos, but apparently I don’t know how to use a camera and a computer together. It doesn’t help that I was trying to learn how to do so in Russian. But it sounds like maybe you got a few. I’ll have try to figure out some better way another time. Any suggestions?
Alright so not a whole lot happened last week. We spent most the week back in samara (which is about 2 hours away by bus and a little bit of walking) My companion is a sickly man and had a few doctors appointments, and we had cultural night at Stalin’s bunker. Short history of Stalin’s bunker: It was built in WWII when Samara was chosen as the 2nd capital of Russia if Moscow were to fall to the Germans. It goes down 8 stories below the ground, where a conference room and a resting room are. The resting room is a replicate of the office Stalin had in Moscow, just with fake windows. I was able to sit at Stalin’s desk, and even cooler, I sat on Stalin’s toilet. That’s pretty much all I have to say about the week before last.

This last week has been a tough one for me. Elder troxumenko and I still have some communication issues that keep up from working in perfect unity. Some of it is the language barrier, and then some of it is a result of pride. I’ve been working hard to humble myself so that we can be a more unified companionship. There were some frustrations this week as we both felt we were doing all that we could, but it seemed like nothing was getting done. Our ALL was not enough. But, we were able to see how Grace really works. Up til Saturday we hadn’t really accomplished much. Saturday night we were able to have a meeting and nail down that baptismal date, but it still didn’t seem like we were having a very successful week. Sunday, we had no investigators at church. After eating lunch we decided to visit some addresses that the sisters gave us. We went to one only to find a wall in the place of where the door should have been. So we decided to knock. Door after door was closed on us. We finally came to one door where the man did not open but talked through the door. After we told him who we were there was just silence. Being quite accustomed to such a reaction we started to turn to walk down the stairs, but then the door handle turned and a man in his pajamas answered. We talked to him for a couple minutes, and then he invited us in because of the cold stairwell. We went in for ‘only five minutes’ but ended up explaining everything about who we were, and that we are here to help people come closer to Christ by reading His teachings in the Book of Mormon. We explained that we wanted to return to teach him about how the Book of Mormon came about, what it contains concerning God’s plan for us, and what we must do in order to return and live with God. We explained that one important step is baptism by the proper authority that resides in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and that he could come to know of this truth for himself as he read the Book of Mormon and asked God in prayer if it was true. We taught him how to pray, and then I had a strong impression that we need to go ahead and set up a baptism date. But, before I could ask him about a date, Elder Troxhemenko pulled out his phone to look at his calendar and asked him if he would prepare for baptism on the 12th of February. He agreed. I told him about how every day before we leave the apartment we pray and ask God to guide us, and that He must love him very much that we were able to run into him again (he told us we had already talked to us on the street but he hadn’t listened.) he then told us that he has been thinking a lot lately about life and God and what he needed to do, and that maybe we were the answer he was looking for.

We also are working with a woman that reminds me a lot of grandma. ( I find one of those in every area…) This one used to be a kindergarten music teacher and can play the accordion like none other. I now have a dream to be an accordion player. Her favorite color is red (she was VERY excited to see my red watch, tie, and socks) and she’s the happiest person I’ve ever met. She wants to be baptized, and wants to do so by the end of the cycle (3 weeks) so that we “can get the money for it, and not other elders”… we tried to explain that nobody gets money for it. She’s also a crazy cat lady… so she LOVED my planner. I may just be giving away some of my cat posters…. It’ll be a little tough to part with them though…. Lol.
Well, I’m still alive and I’ll probably even survive til the end of the week. We’ve pretty much ran out of money, and we’re REALLY hoping we get our next month’s msf before next Monday… otherwise we’re eating…. Sugar, spices, pepper… yup… that’s about it. (but I can always use some personal money then pay myself back when we get money on our cards, so don’t worry. I won’t starve… I’ll just be hungry. But I’ve gotten used to that these past 3 weeks.)
I hope everything is going well and everyone is blessed and happy!
Love, Elder Ellis

By the way, I (mom) received a nice email from a senior missionary in Russia that had this to say about Dustin…
Your son Elder Ellis is a fine young man, he is learning Russian very fast. I asked him to bless the Sacrament when he first arrive in our Branch about 4 Sundays ago and to my surprise he was willing and able to do it. I was aware he had not been in the mission long so I thought he might be unable to do it, but he made a very good job at it, he has a very humble and patient companion Elder Trohemenko and they are doing well as a companionship and as missionary's.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pictures from Russia

This week, instead of writing a letter, Dustin sent a bunch of pictures. Some of them are pretty self-explanatory, others, not so much. He didn't include any captions or explanations, maybe we'll see those in the next letter. Enjoy!

But here's the short message he did attach:

trying to figure out to send pictures... so might not be a letter this week. Just know that i am happy and safe and things are going well in russia here in novoquibashevsk
Thanks for the letters this week! I was just expressing my sadness last week.
love, elder ellis

Monday, January 10, 2011


yes, i have been transferred.

I am now serving in a city called Новокуйбышевск. it is about an hour southwest of samara, and has a population of about 200,000 people. our area is half of the city (sister missionaries have the other half) and we share a suburb. I quite like this area. It's much quiter than living on one of the main streets in south samara, and people seem to be a little nicer here and less afraid to talk to us. The other benefit is that there are a lot of families here. The branch here is much nicer on the inside (the church actually owns a building and remodeled) and there are about as many members that attend (30-40 active). In our area is also the town square where there is a big christmas tree and a very cool slide that i want to go on... (after the slide is about 100 feet of solid ice going across the square.) but... im a missionary.... and there are always about 50 kids playing there all the time. our apartment.... is not as nice as the last one. An old man lived there until he died, and now his daughters rent it out. our last apartment was pretty much an american apartment in russia. this apartment is definitely a old russian man's apartment..... i'm getting used to it. again i got rid of my bed as is it about 3 feet wide and 5 feet long. so i sleep on the floor with a foam pad of the same demensions. I've gotten used to my feet hanging off the end a good foot and a half. The computers that we use are in the public library, and its a much nicer place to use the internet than my last area. i plan to get some pictures out soon.

my companion, Elder трохименко (trakhemyenko) is 27 years old and native to kiev, ukraine. so... i know LIVE the culture and not merely IN the culture. I'm trying to get used to that. especially since my last companion elder swaintson was a really good cook and we ate very good american food most days (except for our russian ice cream!) So this last week has not been so nice on my appetite, but i think i'm just going back to what i knew at home... cereal, omlets, french toast, grilled cheese sandwich. the packages that i got have helped out a lot (oh yeah i got 2 packages last sunday jan 2) and i am VERY glad for the extra snack foods from uncle David and Aunt Marci. and i'm very happy for the hot chocolate. i've sent out thank you letters. the pictures you sent werent exactly what i was looking for ( i have a small 3x5 album i show to people, and i just needed some missing pictures...) but nonetheless i was very happy about it. I do have one small suggestion..... next time you send anything that is in powder form (hot chocolate) send it in a large ziplock bag. some of the packages got holes and so everything had a nice dusting of chocolate on it. anyway.... companion. i'm getting used to him. i think. He's not a very healthy person and so its hard to be on time to a lot of things because he has to use the bathroom a lot, and for long periods of time. The language barrier is a little rough on planning... but its getting better. Its been a tough week... but mainly because i just don't like change. but i'm beginning to settle in.

other disappointment of the week.... my inbox was empty... and i am sad that i have nothing to read this next week from friends and family. do better.
I want to tell you about our miracle this week.

On tuesday i was calling through the former investigators in the area book and i was able to set up a meeting with an older couple. Elder Trox. said that they were very stubborn people and that it would probably be ineffective to meet with them. However, I felt that we should go them anyways as i had already set up. well, we went and he was right about them. But, after we walked in the door and got ready to teach there friend came, and she listened in on the lesson as well. They were all three convinced the Bible is the only word of God and that the Book of Mormon cannot be so. We testifyed of the Book of Mormon as also being the word of God and how the Bible and the Book of Mormon work together to testify of Christ and what we must do to follow Him. At the end of the meeting we asked their friend for her contact information but she said just call the former investigators whom we were meeting with. The next day as I was reading my 2 chapters in the Book of Mormon (that we have committed to read in order to help us accomplish our goal of 200 baptisms this year) i came across 1 Nephi 13 :20-41 which talks about the Book of Mormon and how it establishes the truth of the Bible, and i immediately thought of this woman. So that day i called our former investigators to ask if they had read what we had asked (no, they were "too busy") and asked for the woman's number. They didn't give it to me but they did give me her address. So on saturday we made it a back up plan to drop by this womans house to see if she had read. well our plans fell through, as they often do, and we were in the area where she lived so i felt impressed to drop by. When we knocked she answered and invited us in. Because we are not allowed to meet without another man, we asked if there was a man in the house who would like to sit in on the lesson with us. She invited her husband to come in on the lesson, and we realized that we had already talked to this man on the street before. He had showed interest, but we failed to get his contact information. So we taught them about Joseph Smith and how God called him as a prophet in these days to restore the authority needed to lead Christ's church that He established in his life on the earth. It was very hard for the woman to accept much of what we were saying, but her husband defended us, and answered many of her questions. In the end we gave them another copy of the Book of Mormon and committed them to read, ponder, and pray about it with the promise that if they did so than God would help them to know of its truthfulness through the Holy Ghost and their feelings. It was a wonderful lesson and it was a miracle in the way that we were guided to these people. It's a testimony to me that this is really God's work, and that if we are in tune, we can be guided to do the work as He wants.

well, time is up, and i got to go.
i love you all and hope all is well!
love, Elder Ellis

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Year...New Area....New Companion

Yes, I'm alive.

I wasn't able to e-mail on monday because Saturday was the new year, and on the 7th is Russian Orthodox Christmas... Which means russians pretty much have a week long holiday. And being russian culture, Holiday means celebrating, celebrating means drinking, drinking means not working. Therefore the library where i am e-mailing from right now was closed. Therefore we got permission to use the internet today. Hopefully you can get some sleep at night now.

New Year. Came in with a bang... well came in with several thousand bangs. New years here pretty much means fireworks. And of course, as soon as they start to sell fireworks, teenagers start to shoot them off. So pretty much for a week straight there are fireworks going off somewhere with in sound distance. Its a little strange to be in russia, walking around the streets and hearing so many explosions. all i could think was the nazi's were trying to take back control of the motherland. On friday and saturday we had to be in the apartment from 3:30 for the rest of the night. 3:30 it gets dark, and that's when everyone starts to drink MORE (I'm not russians really ever START drinking.. how can you start if you never stop?) and start shooting off more fireworks. and well, I personally dont really have an eye to spare. So i was glad to be indoors. We had some shake n bake chicken with rice-a-roni for new years eve, and some pork-chops for new years day. and of course, Ice cream with oreos, banana bread, chocolate sauce, and podewshki..(russian cereal) it was a good day of eating. Elder swainston and i always ate quite well.

Oh, i also had my first run in with "the police". we were knocking on new years eve day seeing if one of our potential investigators was home when a man came up to us and whipped out his badge and started asking for our documents. so we showed him that we have all the documents we need to be living here and to be in that building knocking on doors, but he wasn't quite sastisfied. We ended up having to leave to avoid confrontation, but it was a little frustrating because 1. his government has given us permission to be doing that and 2. He was an immigration agent, not a police officer... so kicking us out of building isn't really his jurisdiction. first encounter... i'm sure there will be more.

Oh we also had comp. exchanges where i was able to work with elder bolt for the first time (zone leader) and we had a weird incident. as we were getting on an elevator in an apartment building to go back down to the ground floor the door started closing before i had time to get on. instead of getting smashed in the closing elevators doors i thought i would simply push the button again. well... the button decided to randomly stop working... so he was standing on the inside of the dark elevator and i on the outside. Not within vision. then somebody else on another floor pushed a button and.... there went my companion..... that was the strangest 3 minutes of my mission being alone out in public. hopefully that will never happen again.

well, that describes New Years pretty well, but i've run out of time to talk about my new area and new companion/ That'll come on monday.

I love you all!

Happy new year, and happy birthday nathan!

Elder Ellis